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ancient words written in stone

How Gilgamesh Sounded, One of the World's Oldest Poems


A four-minute trip back in time to an extremely remote past.

In an incredibly remote past, poetry and music were part of one and the same indissoluble art. This was composed and appreciated not only for its aesthetic qualities but for its value as a historical record. For the inhabitants of ancient Mesopotamia, what we know today as the Poem of Gilgamesh was the equivalent of a what book of history is for us. It’s a narration of how, at an earlier time, the gods had separated heaven and earth, and how the friends of Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought against terrible monsters to found one of the oldest kingdoms known to humankind.

Gilgamesh is believed to have been compiled in about the 18th century BCE, in the court of Mesopotamia and based on older texts written in the Babylonian and Akkadian-Sumerian Semitic languages and of which scarcely any records remain. Although the literature is incredibly ancient, modern artists are still inspired by the idea that imagination transcends time. Such was the case for Canadian musician, Peter Pringle, who reconstructed in a short video some of the first verses of Gilgamesh using a “gishgudi,” a long-necked lute with three strings.

Pringle made the video on the outskirts of the ancient palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, and in the video description of the video he added that his intention was to offer “a taste of what the music of ancient Sumer MIGHT have sounded like.” One can close one’s eyes and imagine an ancient time in which the sky and the earth separated for the first time, and heroes searched the world for their first adventures.

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